Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
There we were on skis and snowshoes, mushing along the trail to feed the wild things great and small who light up our winter days when most other creatures have flown south or gone into hibernation. In February, we are often met by several hungry chickadees, a nuthatch or three and a few noisy woodpeckers. The feeders and suet receptacles along the trail into the deep woods are empty, and our wild cousins wait eagerly for their daily bread and banquet to be replenished.
Into the woods we went, two-leggeds carrying suet cakes, millet and sunflower seed, Spencer in the lead and cavorting through the deep snow like a dolphin, chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches dancing from branch to branch behind and chattering happily. The chickadees left sunflower husks behind them like crumbs as they followed us into the deep woods. Ravens overhead announced our too slow (for the birds anyway) progress up the trail and through the trees.
In the winter woods, small details dance in place and beg to be noticed by wanderers in such places. Birch conks and milkweed pods wear caps of snow, and bare trees crackle. Wild grapevines rustle in the wind, and solitary leaves dangle in place on fragile strands of spider silk from last summer's webs. Rocks glisten, and puddles in the hollows are outlined in ice crystals. There isn't a single noshable berry to be seen anywhere on trees or thorns, though a flash of scarlet here and there in the snow would be most welcome.
In winter, every detail in the landscape seems to stand out, and I understand why Freeman Patterson calls it his favorite time of the year for photography in wild places. In the vast scheme of untamed, snowy places are a thousand and one small treasures inviting our attention.
That night, I found myself skiing through the high woods in my dreams, every step attended by wind and birds and lightly falling snow.